In 2022, the Angels finished at 73-89 for the season, resulting in a third place finish in the American League West and missed a playoff opportunity for the 8th consecutive year. There were some bright spots from last year, such as Shohei Ohtani amassing impressive stats both at the plate and on the pitching mound, Mike Trout being his usual stellar self, Taylor Ward playing inspired baseball for most of the year, and Reid Detmers throwing a no-hitter for the Angels as well. Alas, the overarching theme of the year was still underachievement. Their manager got fired midway through the season, and the injury bug still bit the Angels hard last year. The Angels players who missed substantial time due to injuries were Mike Trout, Jared Walsh, Anthony Rendon, Griffin Canning, Mickey Moniak, and David Fletcher. These injuries showed a flaw in the Angels roster construction, especially at the dish. The Angels had only three batters hit over .270, with consistent playing time. This led to the lineup being very top-heavy, with batters 5-9 producing sporadically at best and being downright anemic at worst. It put way too much pressure on the pitching staff and led to overuse of the bullpen and minimal space for error and mistakes by the pitchers, which seem to compound the deficiencies of the bullpen even further. The Angels did become sellers at the trade deadline and did pick up some very quality pieces, including Mickey Moniak and Logan O’Hoppe, among others. Potential scenarios for the Angels this season look more exciting.
To set the background for the 2023 season, the Angels’ owner, Arte Moreno, was considering selling the franchise, and for all intents and purposes, it seemed more than likely. Fast forward to this week, and the Moreno family decided to continue to own the Angels for the 2023 season and beyond. Although this move was generally seen as a negative according to the fanbase, I have a sneaky feeling this may be a positive for the Angels in the owner’s familiarity with the situation. For this to truly be a positive, Mr. Moreno needs to not only open the checkbook but also make sure that the entirety of the franchise is taken care of properly and completely. Perry Minasian, the Angels GM, has created a nice balance of stars like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani and solid starters like Taylor Ward, Max Stassi, and Jared Walsh. Minasian has made some very savvy trades for players like Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Drury, and Gio Urshela. Minasian signed free agents Tyler Anderson and Carlos Estevez to good value deals, both in terms of the amount of money and years on the deals. The team also has a good mix of younger players and solid veterans such as Mickey Moniak, Jo Adell, David Fletcher, and Logan O’Hoppe, to name a few. The ultimate wild card for the season may very well be Anthony Rendon. When healthy, Rendon is one of the top third basemen in the league and quite possibly a top 20 player in all of MLB. Looking ahead to the 2023 season, there are several paths.
The worst-case scenario for the Angels is, sadly, the status quo. The Angels’ players would miss many games again due to injuries. The pitching staff will underperform, and the hitters will continue their subpar performances. The Angels would miss the playoffs and have as many unanswered questions as answers. Shohei Ohtani is a free agent, and it has been well-documented that he wants to be competitive and win games and titles. Seeing as they have not been all that close, Shohei signs elsewhere, which leaves the Angels missing one of the truly great players of this generation, if not of all time. The Angels, in this situation, decide to also unload Trout for young players years away from being major league ready and leave themselves a desert wasteland for the future.
The best-case scenario in 2023 would be that the Angels pitching meets expectations in spots 1-4 and gets a jump in performance from Suarez and either Canning or whoever Phil Nevin decides to put in the 6th spot. If, and it is large if, the Angels’ lineup stays healthy, they should hit for a pretty good average, have plenty of power, control the strike zone pretty well, and be good with runners in scoring position. The Angels’ defense should be excellent. The outfielders can all run, have above-average arms, and have good coverage of the outfield between the 3 of them. The Angels are solid on the corners, and the combination of Drury and either Rengifo or Fletcher will be sneaky good defensively, even though they will not get a lot of recognition for their defense. Behind the plate, the Angels are better than average, with the possibility to be borderline elite with a small jump from Stassi or if O’Hoppe is further along than the experts think. In this scenario, the Angels will make the playoffs, possibly make a deep run and leave the organization and the fanbase feeling wonderful about the future. Shohei stays in Anaheim with a sizeable deal in both money and years. Even the views on Arte Moreno will be totally different if the Angels make the playoffs and have a successful year.
This writer, having been an Angels fan his whole life, truly hopes for the latter, as the Angels definitely deserve to get aboard an upswing. Hello, 2023!